The success of Kyle Edward Ball’s analog experiment Skinamarink, has much to thank to the viral (here meaning an infection passing rapidly throughout a people, as opposed to something like the ‘Mr Beast does Squid Game’ video) origins of the internet’s spookiest corners and the freaks that (lovingly) keep the culture alive.
Skinamarink spread through social media after a festival leak allowed attendees to pirate the film, the $15,000 low-budget horror gaining rare word-of-mouth traction expanding the film from an expected streaming-only release via Shudder, to 10-20 theatrical screenings supported by IFC, to 692 screens in North America. A collective push from Twitter, TikTok and horror aficionados has rendered Ball’s film truly worthy of cult status already.
Increasingly sanitized and ‘safe’ horror experiences of late have created a desire for audiences to seek out something that feels dangerous; lurking in that gap between a generation that remembers ‘cursed’ VHS tapes, and the threat of chain-mail and another seeking out the next viral thrill.
Skinamarink fills that space for nightmare fuel, I refer to it being like an infection because it seeps under the skin, and possesses the skill to leave a deep sense of discontent long after watching it, so much so that it’s very likely you’ll tell your friend about how terrified you, a grown adult, now are to be home alone – leading them to watch it and thus, the cycle continues.
Ball interrogates our most simplistic childhood fears: waking up alone at night, and the unfamiliarity of the figures that loom in those darkened corners. Shooting the film largely from the perspective of the two small children the loose ‘plot’ follows, primal and bug-like, then switching to take the form of a floating entity staring into dusty ceiling corners, disorientation is the aim of Ball’s game. As the children experience increasing disturbances during the middle of the night that sees windows and doors slowly removed from their house, trapping them inside their home, a distorted voice can be heard muffled as though speaking from the heavens, a puppet master using the children in an unsettling game. Ball weaves through these liminal spaces that ultimately end up feeling inter-dimensional, like a plane of reality that exists just outside our own, purgatory in the biblical sense, much like the feeling of waking in the night and feeling completely alone on this planet – or that you’ve disrupted a circadian rhythm inhabited by creatures of the night whose eyes are all now completely on the new intruder.
Skinamarink is shrouded in a kind of darkness where shapes shift and shadows create monsters, and the longer you focus on a space the more your brain dares to dream. This is equally why the film will not work for everyone. Those with an overactive imagination and general sense of paranoia will probably fall prey to the slow-burn psychological unraveling at play and ‘get’ it. Those expecting traditional conventions of a found footage film – quick, shaky and jump-scare led – will find themselves challenged to give in to the slow, still and silent TV static.
While a difficult and challenging watch, ultimately for those drawn to its alternate delivery, Skinamarink is a wholly rewarding exercise in patience and imagination. Watch alone, in the dark, headphones on, for pure isolation and terror.
Skinamarink is available to watch now on Shudder
by Chloe Leeson
Chloë (she/her) is the founder of SQ. She works as a teacher in the GLAM sector and freelances as a costume designer and maker living in the North East of England. She thrives watching 90s Harmony Korine Letterman interviews and bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Green Room and Pan’s Labyrinth. Find her on Letterboxd here.
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